Sports clubhouse dreams now in sight for West Richmond

By Don Fennell

Published 2:50 PDT, Thu October 4, 2018

When Rein Weber looks out over Hugh Boyd Park, he’s pleased to see many of the community’s youth enjoying the Beautiful Game. But in his mind there’s something missing.

A multi-purpose clubhouse.

Weber chairs Richmond FC, which oversees boys’ soccer locally, and is the city’s largest youth sports organization. But his want for a clubhouse extends beyond simply the playing field.

“We’d really like a clubhouse. (But I also) think the city needs it,” Weber says. “One of the things that’s important is to have a facility that can be used all day, every day—a place you can run a daycare out of as well as seniors programs. All kinds of different uses. West Richmond Community Centre is already full, so they certainly understand the value of it.”

From just a soccer perspective, Weber says Richmond lacks a facility to adequately host tournaments on a regular basis. A chronic lack of change rooms and washrooms, is at the very least inconvenient.

“Asking seven- and eight-year-olds to go from Francis (road) to the community centre to go to the bathroom, or to get water, is unreasonable. That’s too far of a distance, and we can’t have their coaches go back and forth with them.”

The absence of a clubhouse also means the possibility of hosting national or international tournaments, is a non-starter, Weber says.

“Our volunteer base is fantastic and we were actually asked to host nationals repeatedly (in previous years) but had to turn it down because we didn’t have the facilities,” he explains. “We just ran provincials, and have been asked to run them again next year. We want to do all those things, but we need proper facilities.”

With the civic election Oct. 20, several candidates are also weighing in on the proposed clubhouse.

Longtime city councillor Ken Johnston supports the idea of building a clubhouse at Hugh Boyd Park. As council liaison for the West Richmond Community Association, he has been party to board discussions on the clubhouse, and is also a Richmond youth soccer referee, plays old-timer’s soccer, and was the co-ordinator for soccer during the 2009 B.C. Seniors Games, played at Boyd, in 2009; a role he welcomes the opportunity to revive now that Richmond has been awarded the 2020 Games.

“Hugh Boyd is a great facility and is used to capacity by our youth teams,” Johnston says. “What is lacking at Hugh Boyd is a clubhouse that would support our local teams, but also attract other tournaments.”

Incumbent independent councillor Alexa Loo says she is a “huge advocate” for such a project.

“When we invest in great facilities, it supports the coaches, officials and volunteers to deliver great programs and sporting opportunities to our athletes—of all ages,” says Loo, who last year as an assistant coach with Richmond FC personally saw the need for better soccer facilities. “We need a fieldhouse, and we also need to ensure that the turf is replaced in a timely manner. Old turf causes injuries. Our kids and adults deserve to play on safe fields.”

Bill McNulty, a city councillor since the 1990s, says he and his Richmond First candidate colleagues support the proposed project. He says he was able to get the project added to the city’s inventory of initiatives in January 2018, explaining that four Rotary clubs in Richmond, along with Richmond Sports Council and reps from boys’ and girls’ soccer, as well as the West Richmond Community Association, developed the concept for a 10,000-square-foot multipurpose community building. He said the proposed building is to be two stories and have a balcony around it on the second level.

While the city will have to bear the primary cost of a proposed clubhouse, Richmond FC has already made a financial contribution of $150,000. That was made four years ago, says Weber, to get the proverbial ball rolling.

“Things like building plans and feasibility studies,” Weber explains. “Now, we just need to have a willingness from the city, and we are getting there. The last update was that the city is taking a hard look at it.”

Weber says the idea of a clubhouse at Hugh Boyd Park actually dates back to the early 2000s, and has since been met with ebbs and flows.

“We will continue to work hard at seeing this through,” Weber says.

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